When measuring the energy efficiency of your home, you can’t just look at one part. You have to look at the entire house. If one system in the house isn’t efficient, it will downgrade the efficiency of the entire system. This concept is known as the whole-house systems approach to energy efficiency.
Here’s an illustration. Replacing your old HVAC system with a new model will bring your home higher efficiency. However, that efficiency will not be as high as it should be unless you fix the leaky windows, enhance attic insulation, and fix the aging ductwork.
- The hot air coming in the windows makes the new HVAC system work harder to cool the house in summer.
- The heat loss through an uninsulated attic makes it work harder to heat the home in winter.
- The gaps in the aging ductwork make the system work harder all year round.
Why the Whole House Systems Approach Is Important
The whole house systems approach is important for many reasons:
- More comfortable – Occupants enjoy a home that’s cool in summer and warm in winter.
- Lower energy bills – Higher efficiency means less energy use, which translates into lower utility bills.
- Reduced environmental impact – With lower energy use, the home is drawing on less non-renewable resources.
- Reduced noise levels – Insulation and more efficient equipment lowers background noise.
- Healthier and safer indoor air quality – A tighter house with a more efficient HVAC system will keep dust and allergens down.
How the Whole House Systems Approach Works
Each home is a unique combination of factors which influence the efficiency of the entire system. When taking the whole house systems approach, it’s important to consider these factors in making decisions to increase the home’s efficiency levels. The important factors include the home site, its orientation and the local climate. It also involves the home’s current appliances, electronics, insulation levels, air sealing, lighting, HVAC systems, water heating and openings in the home’s envelope.
Making a home more efficient involves making incremental changes while keeping the budget in mind. Here is a sample plan for improving your home’s efficiency:
- Address openings in the home’s envelope. Check your windows and doors for leaks. Use caulk and weatherstripping to close those gaps. Also check your home’s exterior for places where pipes and wires enter the house. Make sure those have adequate insulation and covering.
- Deal with any HVAC ductwork issues. Older ducts can have gaps in the seams. They may have loose joints or not fit the vent openings properly. Fix these problems yourself or have a professional do it.
- Add or improve insulation levels. Check the level of insulation you have in the attic, exterior walls and crawl space. If the insulation isn’t at recommended levels, add more.
- Service the HVAC system. Make sure to have the HVAC system checked and tuned once a year. This helps it work at a more efficient level.
- Replace inefficient light bulbs with more efficient ones. As your old incandescent light bulbs burn out, replace them with more efficient compact fluorescent lamps or LED bulbs.
- Install ceiling fans. Ceiling fans help the home feel cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Select Energy Star-rated fans for the most energy efficiency.
- Replace single-pane windows. Choose a double-pane window with a low-E value made from wood or vinyl-covered wood.
- Upgrade an older water heater. As the water heater nears its end of life, replace the older unit with a higher efficiency model. Energy Star rated ones are best.
- Replace old appliances. As the old appliances die off one by one, replace them with Energy Star-rated options.
- Upgrade your HVAC system. Over the past couple of decades, manufacturers have made incremental improvements to the efficiency levels of furnaces, heat pumps and other HVAC equipment.
This approach begins with the low-cost options and works up to the more expensive ones. Each step forward will improve the home’s efficiency level and make the home more comfortable. Tackling one major upgrade at a time will help you manage costs.
For more information on improving your home’s energy efficiency, contact Griffith Energy Services. We proudly serve our neighbors in Maryland, Delaware, northern Virginia and West Virginia.
Written by Kevin Spain